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India scrambles to buy winter gear from US amid row with China

DEFENCE-ENG-17-10-2020-India

India has bought high-altitude warfare kits from the US on an urgent basis, officials with the knowledge of the matter said, a sign that the South Asian nation is preparing for an extended winter deployment after talks to ease tensions along its border with China stalled.

The Indian Army used an agreement which allows the two militaries to take logistical assistance from each other such as buying fuel and spare parts for warships and aircraft, for the transaction, the officials said, asking not to be identified given rules for speaking to the media.

The Logistics Exchange Memorandum Agreement signed in August 2016 aims to promote interoperability between the two militaries.

The worst stand-off between the Asia neighbours in four decades has prompted India and China to move thousands of troops, tanks and missiles to the disputed Himalayan border, while fighter jets are on stand-by.

The rush to acquire the gear shows the situation will extend into the winter.

The troops face off at 4,500m, with temperatures dropping to minus-30 deg C.

Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart, Mr Wang Yi, pledged in September to reduce tensions along the 3,488km boundary known as the Line of Actual Control.

Military and diplomatic talks on troop disengagement are "a work in progress", Mr Jaishankar told investors and analysts at the Bloomberg India Economic Summit on Thursday (Oct 15).

India until now sourced high-altitude kits for its defence forces mainly from Europe or China.

K. Saini, the second-highest ranking general in the Indian Army, is on a scheduled visit to the US Army Pacific Command to discuss other emergency purchases and building capabilities.

The Indian Army did not comment on the high altitude warfare kits, but confirmed the visit of one of its top generals to the US.

A spokesman at the US Embassy in New Delhi didn't immediately respond to a text message seeking comment.